1979-80 Mariners Road Jersey Discovered

I was searching the web for content on the 1979-1980 Mariners page. I stumbled upon something I had never seen before. A Jersey I never knew existed. It was of that era. That much was true. It was a Powder Blue Pullover, Blue and Yellow twill Letters that spell “Seattle” across the chest. But in this picture, there were buttons. 2 buttons. Mariners didn’t wear buttons!

I grabbed the photo and sent it via text to a buddy of mine who is one of the foremost knowledgeable people I know on Seattle sports Uniology (yes, I just made that up). He’s never seen it either.

Some might wonder how an entire set of uniforms could escape the public’s notice for nearly 40 years. It could be explained by the lack of coverage most teams in the west coast received by most of the national media. In the late 70’s, nobody cared what the bottom dwelling Mariners were doing in the top left corner of the country. However, on occasion they might get their picture taken, probably by accident, when they traveled to places like New York, Chicago or Detroit. But still it made no sense, not even the Mariners seemed to have it on record.

Even still, how could this one have slipped by?! I have been scavenging the auction sites for years and have seen nothing like it in the Mariners uniform history. Pretty easily I was able to narrow the use of that Jersey between 2 seasons. Willie only played for the Mariners those 2 seasons, 1979 and ’80. But what year exactly? I started looking for more photo’s. I eventually found 5. I started to scour the photo’s for any details I might be able to glean. Uniform details, Ball Caps, Batting Helmets, Opponent Uniforms to help narrow the date, Look for clues in the background… anything! So here is what I know. Willy Horton, wearing this Jersey, with the All Star game patch on the left shoulder. The team wore that patch in ’79 for the All Star game played in Seattle but had decided to keep it as their primary logo for several years to follow; the Patch was worn on the uniforms in 1980 as well. It didn’t make sense though that the Mariners would change their Jersey design from the ’78 Pullover to the 2 button pullover in ’79 only to go back to the previous design the following year. It would make most sense if they made the change after the 1979 season, and wore the new 2 button pullover in ’80. My guess is that this one was worn in 1980… But I had to be sure.

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There is no way to know for sure, I decided, unless I could reach someone affiliated with the club that was present at that time.

Blind hope carried me as I called the Mariners front office that I might reach anyone who would have been around since the start of the club in ’77. I explained to the operator at the front office what I was looking for and asked to speak with anyone that could help me. He connected me to a person he described as someone in public relations… It went straight to Voice mail. I hissed to myself, Knowing full well that leaving a message was a dead end, for sure. But to my surprise, She called me back within a couple of minutes!

I began to explain what I found.

She listened to me kindly as a stuttered about on this particular jersey and wondered if she or if anyone she knew could provide me with any information on the subject. When I was done pouring out all I knew, she asked me to send her an email including any photos and information I had. And so I did.

BALTIMORE, MD – CIRCA 1979-80: Willie Horton #53 of the Seattle Mariners vs. the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Horton played for the Mariners from 1979-80. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

When I hit ‘send’ I was wondered how long I should wait to try again and follow up, fully expecting this was going to fall to the bottom someones priority list, never to be seen again. A couple of days? no. A week? ehh… maybe. I hate waiting. So I put it out of my mind and got to work on other things. There was nothing I could do but wait… some time passed that afternoon and the phone rang. She called me back!

“Well, I talked to Randy Adamack” she opened, “he started with the [Mariners] in 1978 and was in a position to have close interaction with the players on the field. He remembers the Jersey. He can’t remember if it was 1979 or 1980, but Willie Horton did wear it. Only, it wasn’t approved by the Club or Major League Baseball. He had it made for himself.”

Genuinely stunned. WOW. So here was a Jersey that was lost to history. But it was worn in game. We don’t know how long he was able to wear it without the notice of the league. But there it is, in full color. These 5 pictures are all that’s left. That, and the dim recollection of a Front Office employee and probably Willie.

1917 White Sox

1917 was an interesting year. The Great War had been raging on for 3 years when the baseball season began. The 1917 Chicago White Sox would go on to lead the American League with a record of 100–54. The 100 wins of that year is a club record that stands even today.

Eddie Cicotte (with an AL-best 28 wins and 1.53 ERA), 24 year old Lefty Williams (17 wins, eight losses) and Red Faber (16-13 with a 1.92 earned run average), dominated their way through the 1917 championship season. Eddie Collins (.289 avg) and Happy Felsch (.308, 102 RBI) were anchored by “shoeless” Joe Jackson. It is said that, Jackson was so gifted that as peers and contemporaries Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson all pointed to him as the best pure hitter they’d ever seen.

It was a talented club that led the league in runs scored and pitching with a 2.16 ERA over the entire season. They would win the championship in the end.

Nevertheless, as the season was just getting under way, the United States declared war on Germany on April 06.

We are at the 100 year mark since the 1917 season. We have seen 2 World Wars. Kindgoms and Kingships have been set up while others have fallen. Great minds have come along and given us new understanding in science and physics, but they too are gone now with the passage of time. The global change this world has seen the past 100 years has been like no other. But, here we are, and baseball remains.

All the great players and great moments, even moments not so great have all passed through and are now written solidly in the books.

On this date, July 29, 2017, A celebration of the 1917 White Sox uniform bring together a unique design for the Sox in this era. One that tells a story from a different time. The stars in the ‘S’ and the US flag patches on the sleeves served at the time a patriotic nod to the American involvement in their part in WWI. It was an inspiration in design that we appreciate for it’s simplicity and class of an era gone by.

The Beginning

Several years ago I was shopping for a jersey. My first. I was a little shocked at the price of new retail jerseys. It didn’t matter, I didn’t want a new one. That much I knew.
I grew up in San Diego and my dad took me to my first game in 1983. Gwynn was the starting right fielder, his rookie year. I was 5. He would continue to play for the Padres well in to my 20’s. He was my favorite player and there wasn’t even a close 2nd. So I knew what player I wanted, but which style uniform?
I checked ebay and found a style that was orange and brown. It looked like what he might have worn in his early years. The price was good. I checked with a buddy of mine who I knew was a Jersey collector. Within seconds he responded, “umm… that’s a fake.”
Amused at the speed of his response, “How can you tell?”
He explained that the font, the fabric used, the jock tag, all of it. It was all wrong. I was shocked. Not that it was fake or that I didn’t know the difference. But in that moment I realized just how much I didn’t know.
I started to ask a lot of questions, doing a lot of research. Like most who have fallen in this rabbit hole, you might want more than just that Gwynn or Griffey. You want different styles, different years. Different players. Home and Road for that MVP season? Yup. As I researched and added to the collection I learned a lot. It has been said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” This was certainly the case.
Deeper in to the rabbit hole I go.
Textiles. Numbers. Letters. Colors. Fonts. Name or No Name. Nameplate. Commemorative Patches, Etc. In time I could no longer keep track of the variation for every given vintage. So I began to keep a record of Text and Images… and so it began.

Brian S.